Education is Key

NDSU Microbiology
by NDSU Microbiology

Guest Blogger: Angela Adsero, Undergraduate in Microbiology

One thing that I really enjoy about the Microbiology professors at NDSU is that they are always trying to keep students up-to-date and interested in Microbiology with current news. When Chobani had to recall their products because of mold contamination, one professor took that time to give a mini-lecture on the importance of food safety. One thing that she stressed was to not buy canned foods at reduced costs if they have been damaged because that could be an indication that something funky is going on in the can. What I learned from her food safety plug was “to not eat foods in dented cans” and “college aged males are most likely to get food illnesses because they know the least about proper food handling.”

This got me wondering about how many people get sick from food just because they are unaware of the risks associated; I also started to question how much I really knew about food safety. To that end, I went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to find out more.

On the CDC website, I found out about the importance of properly canning food. Improperly canned food can contain botulinum toxin, which is produced by Clostridium botulinum. When consumed, the toxin causes botulism, which could result in a person experiencing double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. While there aren’t that many cases of botulism reported per year, improperly home-canned food is usually the cause. But don’t let this deter you from home canning the surplus that has come out of this year’s garden! An important thing to keep in mind while home canning is what you are canning. Different types of vegetables, fruits, meats, and fermented foods have different requirements for canning. Just check out the “Complete Guide to Home Canning” that has been published by the USDA to follow the correct steps for canning.

Going back to my professor’s mini-lecture, she also got me thinking about how people could not know about proper ways to prepare food, especially since I’ve practically grown up in the kitchen. It’s kind of shocking to me that some people don’t know the basics, such as using a different knife for vegetables than meats, switching spoons as the meat becomes cooked, and using plastic cutting boards for meats. I guess there are people out there that are not lucky enough to have their parents teach them safe food-handling techniques and quite possibly their parents may not even know. So how can we reach out to those that are out of the loop?

In my opinion, food safety needs to be taught at an early age so proper handling techniques end up being something that doesn’t even have to be thought about. There are several websites out there for kids to learn about basic food safety, but if most people are like me, hands-on learning would be the best for remembering to continually use safe food preparation techniques. Which is why I have concluded that “Basic Food Preparation” could be a class taught in school! Out of all the required health education classes that I have been in throughout the years, they’ve all stressed eating right, but not one has addressed food safety. Would it really be that hard to incorporate a food safety unit? I think not.

Most food illnesses come from incorrect preparation, something that is VERY preventable. Let’s cut down on the food mishaps by informing and teaching preparation techniques early on, because once the food leaves the grocery store it’s up to you to keep it safe to consume!

This entry is part of the fall MICR 354 scientific writing students' blog series.